On Making C Shots Hurt Less

18 gage needle required for drawing a shot of Ascor.

18 gage needle required for drawing a shot of Ascor.

Ascorbic acid is a thick syrupy substance. When injected, the body rushes fluid to the area to deal with it. That is what causes the feeling of the burning. You are not actually on fire. C is so thick and syrupy, in fact, you need a fat needle to pull it out of the vial. I use an 18 gage.

Back when I was struggling with self-injecting, I called compounding pharmacists all over town, asking if anyone had any other ideas for another delivery method of ascorbic acid. Nope.

Transdermal (skin patch) won’t work as ascorbic acid is too thick.

Suppository? I couldn’t find anyone to make one. But surely it would be more pleasant. It might even work. Anyone want to try? Let me know.

A good use of research dollars: find a less painful method of getting high amounts of ascorbic acid into a body. There is a limit to what the human digestive tract can absorb.

I have not tried intravenous C. All IVs, even saline, expose you to aluminum (aluminum is in everything), so best to avoid them when possible.

My understanding is that intravenous nutrition is poorly utilized. EDSers I have talked to who have done IV C do not have the results I do from intramuscular injections. Why? We can guess. The human body does not seem to store ascorbic acid, so a big IV of 25g of C would just crash your blood sugar and not do much else.

Collagen takes time to heal. Collagen also must be continuously nourished with Vitamin C or it falls apart. More on that (the disease of scurvy) in an upcoming post.

Let’s do a C shot:

  1. Warm the shot. I put it in my bra.

  2. Get your iPad going with something to distract.

  3. C or blood may drip, so stand on a floor you can clean (not carpet). Don’t wear nice clothes.

  4. Get cozy. Pour yourself a coffee, or something stronger.

  5. Disinfect injection site.

  6. Uncap the needle.

  7. Plunge quickly into backside.

  8. Depress syringe slowly. Do NOT depress quickly. Ever.

  9. If it starts to burn, stop depressing syringe and wait for burn to pass. Have a sip of your whiskey. I mean, coffee. Remember, this is your me time.

  10. Relax.

  11. Sometimes, I cannot depress the syringe. It just won’t budge. Mr. Pennington will come try, and even he cannot. Not sure why this happens, but I just withdraw the needle ever so slightly, like maybe 1/16th of an inch, and depresses again, it goes.

  12. Bad news: C injected into a sore muscles burns extra bad. But you will need strong glutes to stabilize your hips, knees and spine. This will also give you a great looking derrière. What could be better. So suck it up and endure.

  13. Feel free to scream. Swearing helps relieve pain.

  14. Take some deep breaths.

  15. Lean on the leg on the side that you are not injecting. That will help the muscle around the injection site relax and hurt less.

  16. Don’t worry, you are not on fire. Check for flames if you don’t believe me.

  17. Once syringe is empty, withdraw quickly, dispose of needle properly.

  18. Shot is done. Great job!

  19. It gets a lot less painful over time.

What Not to Do

Do NOT ice the injection site. The cold will slow down the dissipation of the ascorbic acid. This will make the burning feeling last and last… DON’T DO IT!

A heating pad will help. A light massage with a massaging tool can help.

Do not sit or lie down after doing the shot. You need to help that thick C spread out in your fat. Keep moving. Walk it off. Pretend you are a pro football player getting back into the game, the game of your life.

Do some straightening up around the house. It will distract you and make you happier. I like to clean all my makeup, face serums and creams. They do get sticky.

Reducing the Burn

I used to get ascorbic acid compounded at a lower strength. That burned less. Ascor is the strength of 500 mg per of ascorbic acid per milliliter. I used to get 220 mg/ml made.

Then it was cheaper, I found, to add sterile water to the shot myself. Take care to shake the syringe well to mix it, otherwise you will get a shot that is half ascorbic acid and half water, so what was the point to adding water?

Use to dilute C, making shot less painful.

Use to dilute C, making shot less painful.

Many years ago, I used to get bacteriostatic water for like $2 per bottle from the same pharmacy in Beverly Hills that was filling my morphine prescriptions. Convenient. I did shots of this strength for a year or so.

Over time, my body got used to this insult of injected C and reacted less. It sort of whimpered at the influx of C rather than screamed.

I ditched the water and loaded the syringe with more straight up 500 mg/ml C. Yeah! I take my C like a real man.

The shots can still hurt me a lot, but not like they used to. The burn passes quickly. I have been doing this so long, the quality of all the tissue in my body is better.

The most pain I ever had from C shots was when I was deep in opiate withdrawal, coming off my years of continuous Vicodin and morphine. External opioids and opiates overwhelm and smother your opiate receptors with fake happy. Then your own internal endorphins just don’t register on them. Stub your toe and it just goes on hurting. Wasn’t that fun.

After the fake happy of opiates comes endless fake sad. Opiates derange the endocrine system, which does not recover after you’re off, a little known fact. I have a lot more to say about my long-term opiate experience. I have been writing about it lately, taking breaks to crawl under my bed to hide. Contemplating it so deeply, for the first time in years, I seem to have put myself into a bit of a depression.(sigh) I had to find another therapist, and I hate therapy. I went to see someone I found on YouTube. So far, so good.

Still I cannot say opiates were a bad choice for me. I was in unlivable pain which I survived because of all that Vicodin and morphine, to end up here, on the other side, writing this post to you. Doesn’t that make it a success.

Back to injecting C…

Pace yourself. Give your flesh time to heal between injections. Change injection sites every time. Switch sides every time. If you can only manage one shot every week, that’s great. I certainly felt better from even that dose. Maybe it will even be enough for you. I am a very flimsy person, very severely affected by Ehlers-Danlos, disabled very young. I do two shots per day, one on each side because I look so good, have so much energy and nearly all my arthritis healed. Why not.

Keep increasing as you can tolerate it, as you have symptom relief. Start with a very small amount. See what happens.

More Tricks for Less Burn

Where I have placed my hand is where I inject, the area under my palm and fingers. The top, near my wrist, is the least painful. The lower ones burn more, but I have to give other areas a break. Have your doctor show you.


Needle Length

I always used a 1.5 inch needle to inject myself.

Once, the pharmacy ordering my supplies made a mistake and gave me a box of syringes with 1 inch needles instead of 1.5.

I went through that whole box of 100 syringes with 1 inch needles and OMG those shots hurt so much! I thought I would get used to them, but I never did. They were all painful painful painful. I had to check for flames. Ouch!

When I went back to the 1.5 inch, they hurt less, even though the longer needles are much scarier looking. Who knew? I guess getting that C injected deeper is less painful, at least for me. Talk to your doctor about how much fat you have on your backside and what length of needle might be best for you. Try different sizes.

1.5 inch need and 1 inch needle.

1.5 inch need and 1 inch needle.

If I ever lose that last 20 pounds, I will try again with that 1 inch needle. Until then 1.5 is best.

Never give up on your dreams, Kids. I want to be as thin as Paris Hilton. The thinner you are, the better all clothes look on you, and the more styles you can wear.

I work at being very shallow. And vain. My life has required me to go way too deep and I have had enough.

In case I did not offend everyone by saying that, let me try harder.

Don’t project your lack of self-acceptance onto the outside world. That will never solve it. Only you can decide you are just as human as everyone else, flawed and imperfect. I sure wish my problem were just “body image.” What a luxury that would be, to stress about disapproval which may or may not exist, unlike the f*cking inescapable nightmare that is Ehlers-Danlos.

I have struggled with self-hate because of how throughly my body has tortured me, especially since I was not diagnosed until I was 33. Life was very confusing. My body gave out, it wouldn’t sleep, it wouldn’t heal, it was irritated by everything (sound, light, touch). My neck hurt so much I wanted to chop off my head, I couldn’t digest anything, I had no strength, no energy and a lifetime of failure, failure, failure.

Even though I am so much better, I live in chronic fear of my old symptoms returning of becoming disabled again. (sigh) I just take a deep breath and get on with my day.

You will also never catch me meditating, even though everyone knows it is the cure for everything.

I spent most of my life alone with my eyes closed because I was too sick to do anything. That is not a path to enlightenment, that is a path to insanity. After excessive isolation, getting used to being around people was hard. Why practice that? Besides, I have never been impressed with the results of meditation. Isn’t trying to shut it all out a psychological defense mechanism? I’d rather exercise, that really makes you feel good. Or have a drink and go dancing. Who wants to come.

To Really Reduce the Burn

Exercise RIGHT BEFORE THE SHOT, especially working the glutes. Running in place or jumping jacks is best, but if you can already do that maybe you don’t need C shots. It took a lot of injected C and time to heal for my body to tolerate impact.

Or get some circulation in your glutes by doing some clams with a band.

M TRX 1.gif

Squats work well too. Using a TRX, you can take weight off your legs, making squats easier, and get great circulation in your backside. Keep your L-spine stable so as not to damage it.


Take a hot shower BEFORE.

Use a massage wand on the area until you feel heavy circulation BEFORE.

Heat and circulation before shot will cause more bleeding. Have bandage ready.

Sometimes I don't have time to make it a big production out of my C shots. I have places to go and things to do, so I just suffer through the burn. I remind myself how much I have healed and depress that syringe fast: I am working. I have energy. My arthritis is nearly all gone.

I focus on that and ignore the pain. It goes away fast anyway, unlike my old life of unending musculoskeletal pain that even morphine could barely dampen. So really I can’t get too worked up about a little burn from a shot that makes me so healthy and strong.

I do two shots per day, of 1.5 ml of Ascor.

Now that my life has started I want to have the best quality of life I can, for as long as I can.

I want my body never to fall apart again. I want to be dancing on the deck of a cruise ship with Mr. Pennington 💃🏻🕺🏻🛳 when I am 95.

Best of luck on this difficult task.

Be brave.

A better life is waiting for you.*


*No one has done a study or anything. But it got me un-disabled. My diagnosis is hEDS new criteria. You, too? Then we probably have the same genetic error. Whether C loading via intramuscular injection would work for other disorders of hypermobility, I can only wonder...

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